Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
January 25, 2009

This day marked the first day of Chinese New Year 2009: The Year Of The Ox. According to superstition, what you do on this day will set the tone for the rest of your year.....

For the newbies, history tells the tale of how Amebix burst out of England with their visionary hybrid of Metal and Punk in the early-80's and how they burned brightly but broke up in 1987. Although they never toured outside of Europe, their influence bled down through the years to become legend and can be heard resonating in the music of bands such as Neurosis, Napalm Death, and Sepultura (among many others) to this very day.

To be honest, Amebix didn't make an impression on me at all back in The Day; in hindsight they were too forward thinking for me back then.. Plus I simply wasn't open minded enough to embrace a band who played "Crust Core"; what the fuck did that even mean anyway? Of course, it's ironic that I did become fanatical about some of the bands who Amebix influenced, especially Neurosis and the original lineup of Sepultura.

When Amebix announced a reunion and their first-ever U.S. Tour late last year it created a buzz that reminded me of when Celtic Frost toured in 2006. Thankfully, S.F. was one of the only 9 shows in 8 U.S. cities and this show sold out well in advance.

As we approached the Great American, there was a mob out front trying to score tickets and the smell of unwashed black denim and unwashed Crusties hit us; it was that palpable... and it was immediately obvious from the demeanor and look of the crowd that S.F. had been invaded by hordes of East Bay Punks and Metalheads... The vibe was different than your usual S.F. show... dirtier... harder... crazier.. and that was a good thing. Of course, the Umlaut Nation was out in force for this historic night, so a shout out to Timo, Lori, Dave, Ray, Rafa, Big Wayne, John, Erik, and Craig.

So, here in the 21st Century and I found myself in a sold out Great American Music Hall waiting for Amebix to hit the stage for the first time ever in San Francisco. Better late than never, right? For both myself and the band... Of course, the $1 Million Question was how good were Amebix going to be after a 22 year hiatus?? Two words: FUCKING AWESOME.

(Video by Umlaut - Watch with the "HQ" option!)

I'm having trouble expressing just how amazing this show was; I'm gonna sound like an old fart, but I literally felt 15 years younger while watching this performance. The band's playing was so tight I couldn't believe this was only the 5th show of the reunion tour; their rehearsal schedule must have been intense... and the packed crowd was frenzied from the first note. I noticed two young Crusties standing stage right, a boy and a girl, who sang along to every song and the look on their faces said everything. Inspiring shit.

The energy of the room was so old school and perfect, and the crowd action was the most intense that I've seen at the GAMH in years... but there was something else too.. and I couldn't put my finger on what it was at first... Then I realized there was none of that bullshit Jock element in the crowd that is present at most 21st Century Metal shows; Amebix are a band that are off the Jock Metal radar. Tonight it was 600 kindred spirits paying respect to a legendary band, and the band recapturing a fire that originally burned 22 years ago... It was pretty fucking amazing, man.. One of those 600 kindred spirits was Jello Biafra, who sang back up with the band during the encore:

Jello with Amebix during 'Largactyl'
(Video by Umlaut - Watch with "HQ" option!)

Best Quote: "People back home don't even know who we are..." - Rob of Amebix in reaction to the frenzied crowd.

After about 90 minutes of purely positive mayhem, Amebix left the stage amidst smoke and the dying final note of their last song... and I was reminded what it felt like to be so inspired by a band that I wanted to follow them and say "Fuck It" to everything else... I wanted to feed off their energy forever... but here in the 21st Century that doesn't pay the mortgage. Umlaut can be very jaded these days, so it was cool beyond words to have that feeling of inspiration and invincibility given to me by a band again.

As we left the venue and spilled out onto the packed sidewalk out front, there were no less than 6 SFPD cars parked in front, lights flashing, the cops standing around a dude with a bloody face.. Perfect.

"Arise!! Get off your knees!! Get off your knees!"

It goes without saying that, even at this early date, Amebix will be one of Umlaut's shows of the year... I just wish I could feel this way after every gig I attend: Inspired... energized... happy to be alive. Upon my return to Casa de Umlaut, Skychick commented "It must have been a good show, you never talk about a show this much!"

Buzzov*en shirts = 2. I was too caught up in the moment to do a proper merch audit, but Amebix shirts and CD's were only $12 each... Old School! On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. As I said at the beginning of this rant, according to Chinese superstition, my activities and experiences on the first day of Chinese New Year would set the tone for the rest of my year. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Gung hay fat choy, mofos.

Click HERE for Crow's review of the magical evening! It should be noted that, unlike Umlaut, Crow WAS into Amebix back in The Day.